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Ceremony honors Alabama prisoners of war, missing troops at state capitol

Published: Sep. 18, 2021 at 3:08 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - In honor of the men and women who were prisoners of war or missing in action, Alabamians rallied together and hoisted a POW/MIA flag at the state capitol on Saturday.

It was apart of a ceremony commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition Day, a time to unify and remember those who put their lives on the line for the United States.

“Those who made the ultimate sacrifice and served our country deserve to be brought home,” guest speaker and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Richard Landolt said.

Many of the lives recognized are unaccounted for. Service members held signs for the number of Alabama veterans within their branch still waiting to come home.

Almost 82,000 Americans remain missing, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

“We have a POW organization, it’s out of Hawaii actually, that goes around to former battle fields and finds remains and through DNA analysis, we’re able to identify an awful lot of folks,” Landolt said.

The event featured patriotic music courtesy of the Wetumpka High School concert band, a wreath laying ceremony as well as a table remembrance ceremony. The table included just one chair. It was empty, for the troops no longer around.

It was an emotional time for some of those in attendance. “It hurts,” a man walking past the crowd said.

George Mills believes soldiers make sacrifices that often go unnoticed. He is 100-year-old WWII veteran who served in the 28th Infantry Division. He became a prisoner of war, caught in the Battle of the Bulge.

“Two divisions surrounded us with tanks, and they knocked out our Jeeps bringing us ammunition,” Mills said. “Of course, we only had six rounds of ammunition. You can’t fight two divisions with six rounds.”

“We lost our whole company,” Mills said.

The veteran said the POW/MIA Flag is more than just fabric. It represents lives forever impacted.

“It shows a respect for those men that gave more than most people even realize,” he added.

The event, typically held on the third Friday in September, was moved to the weekend to encourage crowd attendance.

For those who missed the ceremony, Landolt said a POW/MIA exhibit will be on display within the capitol until Sept. 29.

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